The annals of state history have given us: Paula Dow, the first African American woman to become Attorney General in New Jersey, Sheila Oliver, the first African American woman to hold the position of New Jersey Assembly Speaker, and now Sheilah Coley, the first female chief of police in Newark’s 175 year history.
Last week, on Tuesday morning at Newark’s communication headquarters, Mayor Cory Booker formally announced Chief Coley as Newark’s first chief of police and the next African American woman to join the ranks of distinguished female accomplishments — in Essex County and the Garden State.
Chief Coley said that she is honored to join this lineage of women, and admits there have been distinct changes in the Newark police department since she became an officer in 1989.
“When I came to the Newark police department there were approximately 15 women, no female supervisors,” says Chief Coley. “Now we have 202 female officers, and we hold every rank, except deputy chief.”
Chief Coley assured those present at the gathering, however, that her appointment was not based on her gender or race.
“This is definitely not a political move,” stated Chief Coley. “I have worked hard for the last 22 years. I have done jobs that most people would not have wanted to, but I did them so I could learn the agency. I never complained, but I did the job and I did the best job I could do everywhere I was assigned,” she added. “I would want to believe — and I do believe — that this is a reward for the job I have done.”
Coley’s appointment occurs during a time when violence is on the rise in Newark. According to the Star Ledger, there have been at least 213 murders this year, a jump of 71% from last year. But Mayor Booker remains optimistic about his newly appointed team, especially after the numbers have dropped since Samuel DeMaio was assigned Director of Police June 1st.
According to Booker, overall crime has been reduced by 5%, gun recoveries have increased by a third, arrests are up by 6-7%, and murders were up 14 before June 1st, but now have decreased to 5, all under DeMaio’s leadership.
“This has been a long, difficult, hot summer for the city of Newark,” said Booker during last week’s press conference. “We have been dealing with a rash of violent crime, that has not only frustrated many in the city, but has caused deep anguish in the hearts of many. Samuel DeMaio sees the chief position as essential in empowering him to achieve his goals.”
Not only is Chief Coley the first female police chief in Newark, but also the first chief of police at all in Newark since 2008. The position was dissolved three years ago, after a fierce rivalry between Newark’s former police director, Gary McCarthy, and the last police chief, Anthony Campos. Newark City Council members and the new police Director, Samuel DeMaio, believed it would benefit the the city and people of Newark to reinstate the position. This is where Chief Coley comes in.
“I have a tremendous amount of confidence in her,” said Director DeMaio, who was also formally announced during Tuesday’s press conference. “There are a lot of challenges ahead of us, and with the leadership that the Mayor and the Council have put together, I feel very confident we can do great things in the city of Newark.”
Chief Coley and Director DeMaio will tackle these challenges within the city with a “General Manager-Coach relationship,” Mayor Booker said. DeMaio will handle the general interests of the department, “settling policies, practice, and looking at the larger picture,” Mayor Booker said. “Chief Coley will be the coach in the field making sure the plans of Director DeMaio are executed flawlessly. You will see her doing the day to day job to make sure points are scored for our team.”
The new police director and chief of police said they will go back to the basics of good old-fashioned police work. They will work together as a team to make sure Newark is safer for those who work and live in the city by implementing more resources into the city, putting more officers on the street and getting more involved in the community.
“What I want to promise all of you moving forward is that I will be in the community,” Chief Coley states. “I will listen and together we will come up with resolutions to move forward. This is a city that we all love, we should not be on opposite ends. We should all come together and make this a better place. For those of you who know me and know the job that I have done, I welcome you to stand with me. For those of you who don’t know me, you will get to know me. We will all come together. “